Life

The fact that I’m turning 30 this year has put a lot of self-imposed pressure on me to, you know...do ALL THE THINGS.

And goal-setting has always been a particular passion (/obsession) of mine.

I just love them (goals, that is).

I constantly want to set goals and figure out ways to meet them. And when I’ve met them, I want to set some more.

It’s less about the “meeting” of the goals, and more about the journey it took to get there, ya know? I love that part.

So, as inspired by Em Is For Marvelous, I jotted down some goals for July and August. For the rest of this month, I want to:

  • Send a “thinking about you” card once a week

    • Plan out who will get a card each week

  • Go for a walk (at least) once a week

  • Re-read & implement HNP Program

  • Try new morning routine:

    • Morning Pages

    • Meditation

    • Flossing

    • Take vitamins

    • Water before coffee

  • Set up ed cal for SolidAsArak.com

  • Create weekly schedule, including:

    • Blog post writing/editing/finalizing

    • Social media content creation

    • Client work

    • Meetings/calls

  • Complete Content Brew or Become a Better Blogger (Skillshare) courses

  • Set up savings account for self-employment tax savings

  • Trademark “Jenna Arak” and “Solid as Arak”

  • Create Instagram editorial calendar

  • Finish reading:

    • The Eventual Millionaire by Jaime Tardy

    • Expecting Better by Emily Oster

    • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Every night, when I’m making my to-do list for the next day, I check a couple of things. I check my calendar. I check my weekly work schedule. I check my Potential Client Tracker. And then I check my goals.

I always want to make sure I’m leaving room for them.

As you can see above, I’ve already started making progress!

I created a weekly schedule, following Jenny Shih’s method to ensure that I was actually taking advantage of the fact that I work for myself - by setting my “working hours” and deciding what work will get done on each day of the week (while also leaving space for the miscellaneous stuff that pops up, of course!).

I’ve also decided that I’m not allowed to buy any more books (well, not many) until I read the ones that I have. So I’ve listed those I really want to read (as well as the books decided by my book club) and split them up into months, so I can focus on only 3-4 - or maybe 5! - books at a time. And I’ve already crossed one off!

I have a lot yet to do, of course. For whatever reason, my July goals list (which was drafted in mid-July, mind you) is a lot longer than my August list. We shall see how well that pans out. Trial and error (or success!), right?

Do you have any monthly (or yearly) goals? How do you track them and make sure you’re doing what you were so resolute about doing back in January?

I can’t believe it’s been almost seven months since we last posted.

I knew it had been awhile. I knew we were letting things slip, but I hadn’t realized it was that long.

Oh well. It’s not the worst thing in the world. This blog is supposed to be for fun, for sharing some insight into our lives; not as something else to add to our to-do list or to get “just right”. There’s no pressure when it comes to this blog. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

It seems fitting though, that the last thing I posted here was about “Turning Pro” as a writer. In the months since that post, I have quit my job to write full-time.

It still feels weird (and incredible) to write that. It is undoubtedly the best decision we have ever made. Or, at least I feel that way. I can’t speak for Aaron, who likely misses (even if only a little) my additional income.

Aaron was the catalyst for this change, though. He was the one - and still is the one - who pushed me to do what I really wanted to do; what I loved to do. What, it seems, that I am actually pretty good at. Most days, he has far more confidence than I have in myself and that has been nice. When I worry or when I stress, I have an eternal cheerleader who is somehow able to convince me that I am good enough, smart enough, talented enough. That we can and will not only make this work, but actually knock it out of the fucking park.

Though I have had moments of worry or uncertainty, they’ve been rare so far - and that’s mostly thanks to him.

What else is new?

In the one month that I’ve been a full-time writer, I’ve had two pieces published (one that is a more creative piece and one that was a business-related guest post) and I’ve done copywriting work for two fantastic new clients (as well as some pro bono work for a few friends).

Aaron is still working with the Ontario Reign and, despite the commute, he loves it. In fact, I think I complain about his commute more than he does. Moving out to the east side of Los Angeles really changed everything for him, in terms of the time he was spending on the road every day, so as difficult as that move was for me, I’m thankful for it. It’s changed our lives in a lot of ways.

Of course, that means that we’re still living with mom, though the goal is to move out by the end of this year. That’s always been the goal, of course, and I want to stick to that, even with my changing career path. As I just mentioned, this year living at home has been life-changing. I’ve fought it internally and I’ve had moments (more moments than I care to share) where I felt embarrassed or as if this didn’t fit within my “life plan”, but ultimately, it’s been the best decision we could have made. We have paid off all our of debt (not including our student and car loans, though those are up next; being knocked out one at a time) and we both are now doing the work that we love and are made to do. Teigen has a constant companion in my mom’s pup, Lola, and I get to spend an inordinate amount of time with the person I love most in this world, next to Aaron: my mama. Even though it took me awhile to see the many positives of the situation, this has been the best move for us. And I’m so thankful to my mom for allowing us the opportunity.

There are a lot of exciting things coming up for us! I’m taking a long-awaited (and much-needed) trip to San Francisco and the Bay Area in late June/early July and Aaron is joining me in Roseville (outside Sacramento, where our besties live!) for the 4th of July. I’m turning 30 in six months (!!!). And we’ll hopefully have a booming business, lots of published writing, and a new home to speak of in the next year too.

I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful for this life of mine. For my husband, my family, my puppy, my friends, and my work. It’s so much more than I could have ever hoped for and I don’t want to forget for a second how blessed I am.

As I write this, I am sitting perched above a gorgeous home in the Hollywood Hills. I’ve got a great view of the city – of Santa Monica and Century City and the palatial homes sitting above the 101 freeway.

It’s really the perfect environment to write. It’s quiet, save for the soft hum of the freeway. It’s absolutely beautiful. I have a block of time squared away for just this – writing.

And yet I’m struggling. I’m finding it so hard to focus and get words on the page

I recently read Steven Pressfield’s “Turning Pro”, in which he speaks at length about the difference between professionals and amateurs. More specifically, he notes the different habits between the two groups.

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but I know I still sit squarely in the “amateur” camp. I don’t take my desire or whatever talent I may possess very seriously most of the time.

In the book, Steven talks about the moment he turned pro. And the moment Roseanne Cash turned pro. And a few other examples of those key, pivotal times that people who knew they had a greater obsession, a fervent passion, went from being amateurs to being professionals. Steven notes that you’ll remember the moment you turned pro in the same way that you remember the moment you first heard about the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

I was so fired up when I finished the short book (and I highly recommend it!). I was almost sure that reading that book may have even been my “turning pro” moment; that perhaps I had suddenly made the internal switch from amateur to pro and would magically have the habits to support it.

It’s been a few days and I still think I have work to do. I suppose every day, even as a pro, you have work to do, but I know I haven’t yet rid myself of my amateur habits.

Last Friday night, I had the perfect opportunity to write. It was the first time in a long time that I had nothing to do and nowhere to go on a Friday night and it felt incredible. Freeing. There were so many things I wanted to do: I wanted to do laundry, I wanted to organize my room, I wanted to pack for a weekend trip to Palm Springs, I wanted to finish writing our wedding thank you notes, I wanted to wash and restraighten my hair, I wanted to read some of Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”, and most of all, I wanted to write.

But I didn’t do any of it. Seriously, not any of it.

I had three (at least) glasses of wine, looked at way too many pictures on Facebook, half-watched TV, and passed out in bed around 11pm. Not exactly the activities of a professional writer.

And it’s hard not to get down on myself when this happens. It’s hard not to wonder if I just don’t have this in me and I will always be the amateur on the outside looking in.

But I know I am smart and I know I am capable and I know I can get things done when I need to: I do it every day at work and in many areas of my personal life as well.

I may not yet be the “professional” writer, but I know that I want to be. I know that I want it so bad, it’s all I can think about for a good portion of my day, every day. And I am acutely aware of the difference between where I am now and where I want to be. I can make up that difference. I can make greater strides and try harder and do better. And sometimes, I’ll drink three glasses of wine and spend way too much time looking through the Facebook photos of someone I barely knew in high school instead. That’ll be unfortunate, and I’ll be pissed at the opportunity squandered, but it won’t be an indication that I need to stop; that I need to give up.

I fear I may always have some amateur habits, or that I’ll sometimes still slip back into them. But from what I learning, the professional in me won’t see that as an opportunity to stop. I won’t turn back.

I want to write. I am a writer.

Three years ago, on Christmas, I gifted Jenna with a trip back to Berkeley to watch a California home football game. She loves her alma mater and hadn't been back on campus since she graduated in 2007, so she was due for a pilgrimage back to her undergrad roots.

Fast forward to now: we still hadn't been to a game and she was beginning to think I had completely forgotten about her gift. We'd been to the Cal v. UCLA game here in LA at the Rose Bowl, but we still needed to head up north.

Now, as a die-hard Angeleno, I have a strong dislike for all things Bay Area-related when it comes to sports. Cal was no different when we first began dating. Since neither of my universities had football teams (shout out to the CSUN Matadors and Long Beach State 49ers!), I was a casual USC fan at the time, with an allegiance to the school for no other reason than I had a lot of friends who attended the university. When Jenna rightly brought up the fact that she rooted for ALL of my favorite sports teams just to support our relationship and keep her boyfriend happy, the choice was pretty clear: I'll take a size large UC Berkeley shirt and a 7 1/4 fitted Cal hat, please. I was the newest and most passionate California Golden Bears fan.

Another word to the wise: Jenna loves surprises. She also loves when she doesn't have to plan anything (that's not true, she LOVES to plan, but since she's a serial planner about everything...seriously, the girl has TWO 2013 planners she carries with her everywhere...she also enjoys when someone takes the planning over from her). So, a few months ago, I checked our schedules - everything was clear. Then I told her she was busy from November 1st-November 3rd (which also happens to be the weekend after my birthday, causing her to be even more WTF about the timing) and she wasn't allowed to know what we were doing or where we were going. My intentions were to let her know at the last possible second that she was headed to Berkeley for a game. We made it all the way through TSA security at the airport without her finding out. I even (with the help of her mom) packed her bag for her. She had NO clue where we were headed.

I had arranged to stay with our friends in Pleasant Hill (one of which was her favorite sorority sister from Cal and one of her bridesmaids), booked the flights, and we were all set. Even as we got through security, she still had no idea. So we walked over to the flight departures board where I asked her to guess where we were going. It went something like this:

Jenna: Portland!

Aaron: No...

J: Seattle?

A: No...

J: San Francisco!

A: Nope.

J (getting visibly disheartened at this point): Vegas?

A: Nope.

J: Fuck. Idaho?

A: Haha, definitely not.

J: Uhhh, that's all of the places up there...

A (walking away): No, it's not!

J: Where the hell are we going then?!

A: Oakland!

J (wrinkling her face as if someone cut the dirtiest fart in history): Oakland? Really? ...Have you BEEN to Oakland before?!

A: Yes, I have, and it's BEAUTIFUL this time of year.

So the location was out, and after a few more Q&A's she figured out we were going to the game and she was STOKED!

Mission: Accomplished.

What followed was a wonderful weekend with great friends, day drinking at the college bar, reliving glory days, and making new memories in a place that is near and dear to both of our hearts. Cal lost the game, unfortunately, but we'll never remember the score, we'll just remember our first trip back to her beloved campus in what will hopefully become a tradition we practice more than once every three years.

Go Bears!

I took the train to work today, which is always an adventure in and of itself.

As I was walking from my last stop to my office, I noticed a car had slowed in the street beside me. I pulled out my earbuds to hear what the driver was saying, assuming he needed directions.

"Are you Brazilian?" he asked instead.

When I shook my head no, he added: "I would have sworn you were, based on your shape and your soft face!"

"Thanks?" I offered.

"That's not always a good thing!" he shouted and sped away.

Happy Monday to me.

WARNING: This post includes feelings. And complaining. Mostly, complaining about my feelings. I hope you'll proceed with the non-judgiest of caution.

Marriage is all about compromise.

That's one of the many pieces of marital advice I've collected over the years. It's one of the keys to a successful marriage, I've been told, and I do believe it to be true (though I'm certain marriage is about a lot of other, more positively-associated, things too). But as accurate as the adage may be, that doesn't make it easy.

Aaron and I have now been living with my mom* for a month.

Compromise is the reason we moved away from our home in the first place. There are benefits to both Aaron and me, no doubt - we both have the opportunity to save money, for instance. And my mom is a loving, giving, and fun roomie! But at the same time, I now have a 4+ hour commute to work every day, while Aaron's commute to his new job (which we knew was a significant distance from our home when he took it) has been cut in half.

And it's tough. Spending at least nine hours at work and another four hours in my car every day is seriously wearing on me - even after only a month. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn't realize quite how draining it would be.

There have been nights where I've called Aaron in tears as I sat in what could very accurately be described as a parking lot at 9 o'clock at night, trying desperately to get home with enough time to check my Facebook and cuddle my dog before I passed out. Only to wake up 5 hours later and do it all over again.

I know I'm not the only person with an awful commute (especially in Los Angeles!) or one-half of the only young couple that's moved back in with mom and dad, but the potential camraderie of this shared experience is one I'd sooner do without.

It's a strain on my energy. It's a strain on my sanity. And, most importantly, it's proven to be a strain on our young marriage. We spend hardly any time together and when we do one or both of us is tired (usually both of us) and cranky (mostly me). More often than I'd like to admit, I consider Aaron and his new job to be the catalyst for our move and I am bitter that his life has been made better by our compromise, while mine has gotten worse.

I'm not truly worried about the state of our marriage. I know we love each other fiercely and this is one small, short experience at the beginning of a lifetime together. I also know that, however much I am struggling in this moment, we are both benefitting greatly in the long-term by the choices and changes we're making in the short-term. And finally, I know that we could have - and probably will have some day - far worse struggles to overcome.

Nonetheless, I am struggling - whether it be with good reason or not - with this first big, real compromise and test of our commitment to each other and our future. I want to find a way to make it easier, not just for me, but for both of us, while also quickly building toward our next step. I don't know what the solution is - undoubtedly, it will involve more compromise, but I know the rest of our lives will. It's just a matter of finding a good balance in that compromise. That delicate evenness where both parties are sacrificing a little and gaining a little, but both in the pursuit of a shared, strongly-desired goal.

We haven't found that balance yet, but we'll work toward it together. And I'm thankful that I have this current experience to guide us and prove that, however hard it may be, we can do it.

*I feel it's necessary to note that my mom is wonderful to live with. She has done laundry for us, cooked meals and made leftovers for us, and watched our sweet puppy girl during those many hours we spend at work and sitting on the freeways. She also always has wine waiting for me. She's a joy; the feeling that we have to rely on her to get where we want to be, is not.

I was the editor of my high school yearbook. And the co-captain of the dance team. And a member of our Senior Council (I ran for President, but lost, tragically). And I share all of these anecdotes quite proudly to this day. That, in and of itself, should tell you a thing or two about me.

Even still, I was never the girl that was sad to leave high school. I didn't cry at graduation - I rejoiced. I was so excited to move on and move up - to learn more and do more and be more. And, despite life's little (and really fucking big) bumps over the past ten years, I have absolutely loved my life since I left Village Christian High School.

I was the kid/adolescent/teenager/actual-adult-right-now who always wanted to be grown up - I can't remember a time in my life that I didn't want to be interacting with and imitating the "grown ups" in my life. And though I'm sometimes nostalgic for more innocent days, I quite love living as an adult. I love the freedom, I love the responsibility, I love, love, love my husband, and I even love the bills! I really appreciate the way my life has turned out - both by choice and by chance - and I don't often reminisce on my past, because I'm fairly busy relishing how fucking amazing I have it.

But I was able to reminisce a bit this weekend - at my ten-year high school reunion - and I realized how much I really had missed high school; maybe not the overall experience, but certainly my classmates and our camaraderie and our countless, incredible memories together. Even the partners - girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands - we've picked to accompany us on our journey since high school fit seamlessly into our tight-knit group.

Reunion

In spite of a few worries I had going into the weekend - would I have fun (yes!)? Would I spend time with people I didn't know as well in high school (yes!)? Would the presence of my high school boyfriend be more than slightly awkward (yes, yet again!)? - I had an amazing time.

The day before my reunion, I had a conversation with a trusted acquaintance. I expressed my excitement and my nervousness, and we talked through what was really running through my head: What exactly had I done in the last ten years? What had I accomplished? What I had won and lost? What mistakes had I made? What had I learned?  How was I a better, smarter, kinder person thanks in no small part to the lessons of high school and of time, generally?

I reflected a lot on my shortcomings - on the mistakes that I had made and the regrets that I still held onto. She, of course, pushed me to consider what I had accomplished and what I had to be both grateful for and proud of. All of these things are important to me and weighed on my mind as I left for my reunion on Saturday.

But when I got there, none of it really mattered anyway. It didn't matter what we'd done (or what we hadn't), who we'd married or how many babies we'd had. What mattered was that once, at one important point in time ten years ago, we were 130 kids spending nearly every second of every day together, growing and learning and hurting and laughing together, depending upon one another for nearly everything because nobody else quite understood what we were going through. And I spent Saturday night relishing in how important all of these people - quite literally, all of them - had once been to me, and how thankful I am that they're still a part of my life, however big or small.

Reunion

All plans and questions and nerves aside, I was honestly surprised to have as much fun as I did, interacting with my old classmates - hearing about weddings and babies and new careers - given I thought I knew everything about everyone via Facebook, and that they, of course, knew all there was to know about me.

I'll be cliche, because thankfully it was true - it was as if no time at all had passed. And, despite my experience in and love for digital communication, Facebook never has been - and I suspect never will be - a substitute for the importance of face-to-face interaction.

I have grown a lot and accomplished a lot and made a lot (A LOT) of mistakes in the past ten years, but in so many ways, I haven't changed at all. I will always be the girl who takes (and posts) all the pictures. I will always talk quickly - and far more than is necessary - when I'm nervous. I will always be the Yearbook editor. I will always worry (at least, a little) about being liked. I will always miss just the innocence and ease and fun of ten years ago. And I will always, always cherish these memories.

Reunion

InLoveWithYourLife

I spent the majority of our honeymoon reading books and planning out the next phase of our life (and drinking copious amounts of wine). This might not sound particularly relaxing to a lot of people, but personal development and planning and organization and notebooks (and wine) are sincerely the sum of my favorite things and activities in this world.

For two straight weeks, I thought carefully about the five most important categories of my life: Love // Family // Friends// Work // Life. And then I thought what might make each of these categories better, more fulfilling, to me. I gave consideration to the components of my ideal life and how I'd like to feel on a regular basis. It might sound hippie-dippie to a lot of people (that's fine; it is), but it was incredibly stimulating and enriching to me. After several months of nonstop activity and stress, the two weeks of our honeymoon felt like a mental, emotional, and physical respite and I took full advantage of it.

Aaron is not nearly as into personal development and education as I am, but he appreciates growth and positive change and keeping his hippie-dippie wife happy. We spent a lot of the honeymoon planning together. We planned out the next steps in our careers, in our health, in our finances, and our living situation. We even talked about our timeline for BABIES (the word BABIES will always be in all-caps, because that's how I say it in my mind - with all-caps-like exuberance)! We talked about the risks we'd like to take and the changes we'd like to make. We talked about how to be better partners to each other (even only a few days into our marriage) and how to be better family members, friends, coworkers, and eventually parents. We made big plans, not because we have significant problems with who we are now, but because we know we can be (and always desire to be) better - for each other, if for no one else.

I'm excited to share some of our plans here on the blog with you: our plans to eat better and exercise more (Aaron is leading this charge, as I know I am incapable of doing it on my own), our plans to pay off our debt and have a down payment for a house saved up in one year, our plans to consciously change bad habits and develop/encourage new ones, and our plans to actively support, sustain, and nourish our marriage.

I'm excited to share it all, because we're more than aware that shit's going to be hard - and we need the accountability. The accountability, the support, and maybe the encouragement that our plans/struggles/victories are helpful to you too.